Bigger equipment boxes from Cox landing in more yards as tech demands grow

The original placement of a 5-foot-tall equipment cabinet in Catalin Martin's yard.

Cindy Swirko/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.

A tree died in Catalin Martin's front yard recently, and before he could plant a new one, a contractor for Cox Communications planted a 5-foot-tall equipment cabinet instead.

Martin tried to contact someone at Cox and got nowhere. He contacted a lawyer. He tried Cox again.

"I asked the homeowners association — if I put this in my yard myself, they said they would fine me," Martin said.

Then, one day, the box was moved across the street next to a retention pond. Martin quickly planted a new tree where it had been.

While Martin eventually won, a big green box might be coming to your yard.

As people demand ever faster Internet speeds, sharper high-definition television and other technological wonders, it takes more fiber optic threads, switches, cable and other equipment to provide them.

That equipment is increasingly encased in bigger boxes.

Maureen Tartaglione, Cox public affairs manager, said the boxes have to go somewhere.

"With homes now, it's going to be more of a challenge with the zero lot lines and the houses right on top of it," Tartaglione said. "The older boxes were smaller. But now the technology has gotten so much more complex."

Tartaglione said the boxes are bigger because more electronic equipment is needed. The equipment must be above ground to reduce any chance of flooding.

If flooding happens, everything run by Cox, including phone lines, gets knocked out, Tartaglione said.

Large coils of extra fiber optics are placed in the ground under the cabinets, she said.

"This is the new wave for all of the telecom companies," Tartaglione said. "We have to be on public property. If a homeowner requests it, we can plant shrubs around it. It's never going to be a perfect solution with the utilities' infrastructure."

Eagle Point is in unincorporated Alachua County, where Cox must get permits for equipment upgrades. The process includes submitting site plans that are supposed to show if any equipment boxes will be installed and where they will be, said Tim McKenzie, construction inspections superintendent.

McKenzie said the county evaluates the placement of the boxes on a variety of factors including aesthetics and potential conflicts with sidewalks.

Just a handful of the large cabinets have been submitted in plans with the county, all within the past five to eight months, McKenzie said. He added that some were not shown on the initial site plans.

"We do have some regulatory authority, and we do work with them fairly closely," McKenzie said. "In the permit process, they have to disclose everything they are going to do on our right of way. They are getting better about it."

McKenzie said he spotted a badly placed box in the Hamilton Heights subdivision off Newberry Road.

The box was put in the side front yard of a home. The owner told The Sun he tried to reach someone at Cox but could not actually connect with anyone.

The box was moved after McKenzie spotted it. The cabinet is now along the side backyard.

"I was riding by and looked at it and said, whoa, this has to move or it's going to cause trouble," McKenzie said. "Cox has been pretty good to move them when they have obvious conflicts. They have contractors who may not be as sensitive to homeowners as we are."

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